Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions
Campaigns:

CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: Boating Times Long Island

BYOB—Bring Your Own Bag!

BY MAUREEN DOLAN MURPHY

Posted: August 2, 2012
Originally Published: August 1, 2012

Image of Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, Village of Northport; Councilman Mark Mayoka, Town of Huntington; Legislator Doc Spencer, Suffolk County; Supervisor Frank Petrone, Town of Huntington; Maureen Dolan Murphy, CCE Executive Program Manager; Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director.

CCE launches an educational campaign with the Town of Huntington, Village of Northport, and Village of Port Jefferson encouraging residents to BYOB—Bring Your Own Bag. Pictured from Left to Right: Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin, Village of Northport; Councilman Mark Mayoka, Town of Huntington; Legislator Doc Spencer, Suffolk County; Supervisor Frank Petrone, Town of Huntington; Maureen Dolan Murphy, CCE Executive Program Manager; Adrienne Esposito, CCE Executive Director.

Is that a buoy or a jellyfish you’ve just spotted in the water? No, it’s a plastic bag.

Plastic pollution from bags, bottles, and bottle caps is common on our beaches and in our rivers, harbors, bays, and open waters. The journey that discharge into our waterways. It is estimated that 70% of all marine debris is originally from land-based sources.

All marine debris can be traced to one source— people. Every day the average American discards four-and-a-half pounds of trash. Through mismanagement of trash and littering, plastic ends up polluting our highways, parks, beaches, and waters. Flimsy, lightweight, disposable plastic bags have become one of the leading sources of plastic pollution worldwide. These bags and other plastic debris, like discarded fishing line or ropes, can damage boats by wrapping around propellers or clogging engine intakes, creating direct economic hardship.

Plastic pollution is also deadly to marine and avian life. It is estimated that over one million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die in the North Pacific region alone each year because of plastic pollution. Sea turtles mistakenly consume plastic bags, thinking they are jellyfish and these already endangered creatures end up starving. Plastic becomes tangled around the necks of birds, fish, and dolphins, strangling them.

In New York and Connecticut, our surrounding waterways generate economic activity from tourism, recreation, and the fishing industries, so it makes sense to invest money for the protection and restoration of the Long Island Sound (the last few summers we have been delighted to see pods of dolphins return to the Sound, a positive indicator that restoration efforts are working). Yet, plastic marine debris remains an unsolved problem here and elsewhere. According to the annual International Coastal Cleanup Report, which documents garbage picked up during yearly beach cleanups, plastic bags account for 12% of the total garbage collected. From 2008 to 2009, plastic bag pollution in the U.S. increased 16% along our nation’s beaches.

While the problem may seem overwhelming, the solution is simple: Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB)! Cease using harmful, toxic, disposable bags, and switch to sturdy, fashionable, reusable bags. Long Island Sound coastline communities such as Southampton and East Hampton, along with Rye, New York and Westport, Connecticut, have successfully banned the ubiquitous plastic bag. Westport has documented a 70% increase in reusable bags since implementing the ban. Other municipalities, such as Washington, D.C., have implemented a five-cent surcharge on plastic bags. Within weeks of implementation, some stores reported reductions of 6,000 bags per week.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) has launched a campaign that engages businesses and members of the public in reducing their use of disposable bags and switching to reusable bags.

“Plastic bag pollution can be as much of a problem on the water as it is on land, affecting water quality, marine life, and boating safety. Just as the Town of Huntington has worked with the Citizens Campaign for the Environment to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags with them to stores, we also urge boaters and beachgoers to bring reusable bags with them to reduce the amount of plastic fouling our beaches and waterways,” said Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone.

Bringing your own bag is a simple, easy way to protect our oceans, estuaries, marine, and avian life. For more information on CCE’s campaign and to download factsheets and brochures, please visit our website at www.citizenscampaign.org/campaigns/plastic-bags.asp.

Reusable bags are readily available, hold twice as many items as conventional shopping bags, and are quite sturdy. On average, a plastic bag has a lifetime of only 12 minutes, but a reusable bag prevents the use of hundreds of plastic bags each year. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to make the switch and BYOB, so the next time you are asked to choose between paper or plastic, you can say, “No thanks, I brought my own.”

By Maureen Dolan Murphy

Maureen Dolan Murphy is the Executive Programs Manager with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.